Tag Archives: paganism

CloudCatcher 2019 – Affinity Group Ritual – Day 3

At CloudCatcher WitchCamp we almost always have an affinity group ritual. This is an opportunity for these small groups to turn inward to each other, drop deep into the arc of ritual-work in the cauldron of the Story and Theme of the Camp and open to the magic of the moment, of desire, of need. Affinity groups are an essential ingredient in Reclaiming WitchCamps. I have had okay, wonderful, and not-so-great experiences in affinity groups as a camper at Reclaiming WitchCamps. Most of the time we end up in affinity groups “by the hand of the Goddess or Fate Herself”. We pick tokens or found objects and then we are sorted… though sorting hats aren’t usually around. Affinity groups usually consist of 4-7 people.

I did not randomly or by fate choose a token and then get sorted… I chose to enter the pre-determined Person of Colour affinity group. At CloudCatcher and several other Reclaiming Camps affinity groups are also organised around axes of oppression and experiences of social and political marginalisation. Reclaiming is intrinsically a politically-engaged tradition and feedback in the community of late in various countries has clearly communicated a need for these kinds of solidarity groups. As well as this, choosing to go into the PoC affinity group as a self-identified PoC is entirely optional.

We are collectively exhausted. WitchCamp is called a magical intensive quite specifically… it is thorough, “full on”, and well – often, intense.

One of our group excuses themself so they can get the rest they sorely need. Another does not feel completely safe and feels a spirit that has been pushing against their edges all day might invade their space if we do not ward ourselves, so I offer to cast a Circle of warding, containment, and strength.

I take my wand from Inanna’s altar in the East and I move with the arc of the sun below the equator: beginning in the south where the sun can not be seen, through to the dawning east, to the high tide of day in the north, to the twilight dusk in the west, back to the midnight south, arcing above, swooping below…

“By the centre which is the circumference…” These are words I often use to seal the Circle-casting ritual in Reclaiming and Feri practice. They are a meditation to me, they have deep meaning, and I open to the mystery between the words, and evoked by the words.

And then we simply sing. We sing, and sing, and sing.

We sing a song Riyana taught us at ritual conspiracy. It was woven by Jennifer Byers, Pavini Moray, and their path at Free Cascadia WitchCamp:

Deep, dark velvet, Earth my lover
Open my mind and open my body
Wet and welcoming, sweet surrendering
Starlight and bone, my power from within –

We sing, I am drumming on my bodhran while others sway and rock singing with their eyes closed. A few of us take pastels and colours and form magical sigils on the paper on the ground. Each group has been tasked with this by the teaching team. This too is for the compost. This ritual matters too. This ritual is what we need.

So, we sing. We sing and then we laugh.

CloudCatcher 2019 – Crossing the Abula Path – Day 1

Devotion to Self
Heart to Fire in the Head

I approached this path with a good deal of trepidation. My usual practice is consistently more Upperworld than Underworld, and the last two years of my life have been very much tinged with Underworldly energy. Most of it, I didn’t really enjoy. When I looked at the options available, I felt this was the only path for me. It called to me, whether I wanted it or not.  Skipping merrily however, I was not.

Looking around the group, there were certainly a few familiar faces and there’s always comfort in that. Our teachers, Raven Edgewalker and Caduceus were the reassuring guardians of this path. They engaged the group with ease and expertise, just the right amount of humour and  gravitas that is required for self reflection and underworld journeys.

During this first day, I was drawn into a vision, guided into the heart of the concept of Devotion. There were elements discussed covering Devotion to Deity and Devotion to Self, something which I give very little thought. My vision notes read-

An apple tree, sparrows fluttering around, pecking and squabbling over the fruit on the branches. One of the tiny bodied birds caught something in the centre of the apple and drew it out. It was a blade without a hilt, needing to be reattached to something new, forged into something. 

I also had a very clear image that appeared to me, of the connectivity of my chakra points, from my Heart, to my Third Eye and up to the GodSelf, to the Crown, stretching into the heavens above, connecting my heart, my thoughts, my soul to themselves and to the divine. It was the core of devotion to Deity in my heart that connects to the fire in the head.

It also made me think of this Tea Party song from when I was a teenager, Fire In the Head.

After this work was completed, we moved into small groups and we were challenged to work in silence (after brief discussion) to create an altar in devotion to Ereshkigal. We talked about how we felt devotion was tied to creation, to expression, which has always been something that called to me. In devotional act to the Dark Goddess, we created an altar of many parts. Some of us chose to paint our skin with symbols and sigils, one of our group wrote a song, we built a small cairn of stones from the land, in honour of her ties to the earth. Working in silence was profoundly powerful. For me, it offered focus and narrowed down the world to a concentrated effort of creation in honour of something incredible, complex and divine.

I have to admit, I was excited at the concept of having homework, and some of it turned out to be a little more challenging than it first appeared. Raven spoke about integrating things into daily practice and we were asked to consider our self care regime, our ability to look into the mirror and express love into the eyes of the reflection gazing back at us. Challenging business for sure. Ongoing work, even after returning home for me…

Cloudcatcher 2016 Evening Ritual 4

I could feel the magnetic force of Janet’s and Tam Lin’s love. It throbbed through the circle once both of those Scottish legends were aspected. The two great lovers had an immense bond to one another. Gede had aspected Janet. What I knew of him was gone. During this ritual, Janet lived through his body. Energy ripples waved over him and I saw his body swollen with Janet’s pregnancy. Tam Lin, alive in Paul’s body had proceeded to offer an animated retelling of his side of the old ballad.

Tam Lin told his tale of how his father tried to kill him. He spoke of willingly residing within the land if the Fey. And he recounted that once his grandfather, his only tie to the mortal world, had died he gave up mortal life and even volunteered to undergo the Samhain rite. He shared his duty of servicing maidens who sought out his generous touch. However, his heart seemed to come back to life when he began telling his tale of how he and Janet slowly developed a love for one another. As such, Tam Lin’s courage and sentiment rekindled my own.

This type of love, slow to build but fiercely enduring, is the type of love I’ve developed with my Self. It wasn’t until my early thirties that I developed a conscious self-love. My early years were used desperately seeking love outside of myself. However, these years were not lost. I have been able to develop pearls from the painful formative relationships of my youth. Seeking love from solely “external” places did not serve me. However, allowing myself to be fiercely held in love by others has offered me a chance to see what it is in me that is loveable.

It took me many years of shifting shape through relationships until I understood who I was and how much I was intrinsically worth. The relationships with my family of origin, former lovers, friends, family of choice, community, and current beloved have been the mirrors through which I have become self-aware of how innately deserved to be loved. I needed that help. Just as Janet witnessed and held Tam Lin through all of his transformations, so too have my loved ones done such for me.

As Tam Lin told his story of the night Janet saved him, I relived his trials. My body shape shifted into a salamander; eyes swiveling in opposite directions, adhesive feet pads sticky, and belly close to the ground. The soft membranes of skin roughened and grew coarse brown fur as I shifted into a grizzly bear; half asleep in pre-hibernation, confusedly lumbering on all fours, roaring at full towering height. The thick grizzled hairs and musky smell fell from me as cold smooth scales emerged. Limbs receded as my serpent form wiggled and coiled forth seeking heat and prey. And in only an instant later my elongated neck grew feathers, my beak hardened and wings carried me singing into the evening sky as majestic swan. As my wings straightened into arms and my feet hit the ground I held myself gently in my very own human form.

Janet conjured her magic potion and gave oracle to the crowd lest we take our solidarity for granted in the challenging days to come. I sat in council with a handful of other witches and named my fear and my joy. I feared that I might amount to nothing but a disposable person whose life and story meant little difference to anyone. Yet the joyous nectar we conjured there in ritual undid this fear, this secretly guarded poison. The ways in which I could recount the innumerable people who have reached out to affirm that I matter to them were powerful ingredients in that alchemical brew.

There is deep value in being able to experience yourself through the embrace of loved ones. Sometimes when we cannot love ourselves we are blessed with others who can see in us that which has inherent worth. When I am faltering in being able to be present in a healthy form of self-love, I am able to gather those nectar ingredients offered by my heart-allies. With their inspiration I become able to brew a fortifying potion that brings a fecundity of self-love. And I am better able to lovingly embrace myself.